Mini Review Monday #42

I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was a little while ago. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve read, loved and usually promised to review ages ago.

First up, I’d like to talk about Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth. Thank you so much to Rob Farrimond and Andersen Press for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Aideen has plenty of problems she can’t fix. Her best (and only) friend is pulling away. Her mother’s drinking problem is a constant concern. She’s even running out of outlandish diseases to fake so she can skip PE.

But when Aideen stumbles on her nemesis, overachiever Meabh Kowalski, in the midst of a full-blown meltdown, she sees a problem that—unlike her own disaster of a life—seems refreshingly easy to solve. Meabh is desperate to escape her crushing pile of extracurriculars. Aideen volunteers to help. By pushing Meabh down the stairs.

Problem? Solved. Meabh’s sprained ankle is the perfect excuse to ditch her overwhelming schedule. But when another student learns about their little scheme and brings Aideen another “client” who needs her “help,” it kicks off a semester of traded favours, ill-advised hijinks, and an unexpected chance at love. Fixing other people’s problems won’t fix her own, but it might be the push she needs to start.

Publication Date: 3rd June

TW: alcoholic mother, absent father, bullying, toxic friendship, gaslighting

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

Not My Problem was a really enjoyable contemporary read. It’s packed full of wit and warmth, with inevitable glimmers of Derry Girls shining through. 

I really enjoyed following all of the characters and watching their arcs grow and develop. Their relationships between them were fascinating and I loved how it was like a snowball effect, connecting all these social groups together. In particular, I loved the relationship dynamic between Aideen and her eventual partner. Their dialogue and snappy wit complimented one another perfectly, though it was often used against one another. Their chemistry crackled off the page, though I appreciated the slower burn and gradual build up of their enemies to lovers dynamics. 

Aideen was a fantastically complex protagonist as well, dealing with her own issues but also having a heart of gold beneath her sarcastic exterior. Smyth seems to excel in complex characters, whose tough exteriors hide their internal struggles. Aideen’s home life is a battle and that stone exterior translates to her perceived coldness. Watching her be able to tear down some of those walls and find a place where she feels fully accepted is cathartic to witness. You can’t help but root for her, despite her flaws. 

The writing was brilliant. It always felt fresh and new, with a spark of some intangible magical quality behind it. There’s plenty of humour to be found here, often of the drier, sarcastic kind. It left me with a smile on my face plenty of times. That’s not to say that it’s without heart however, as Smyth deals with tough issues in a sensitive and nuanced way. I really loved how the favours only got more and more elaborate, culminating in heist like schemes. 

Not My Problem is a fierce, fresh and ferociously funny story of high school, finding your place in the world and ever escalating favours.

Next up, I’d like to talk about You’re The One That I Want by Simon James Green. Thank you so much to Harriet Dunlea at Scholastic for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Freddie has a reputation as a ‘nice guy’ – inoffensive, sweet, kind – and therefore completely un-dateable.

As he starts sixth form, Freddie decides that this nice guy isn’t going to finish last any more. No more missing out on parties because he’s got to do his homework. No more saying no when he really wants to say yes. And most of all no more lusting after unobtainable straight boys who enjoy the attention but ultimately break his heart.

Freddie embarks on a series of changes designed to transform his social and romantic life, and suddenly he’s a drama darling, getting invited to all the popular kids’ parties, and hot new boy Zach is showing an interest. Life couldn’t be better!

But the path to love is never smooth – and Freddie’s about to learn that changing everything about yourself isn’t necessarily a foolproof way of finding the right person… 

Publication Date: 3rd June

TW: cheating, emotional manipulation, homophobia

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

Simon James Green is undeniably a king in YA romance and contemporary. Yet again, I picked up one of his books and left with my heart a little lighter. 

His books are packed full of heart, humour and more than a little awkwardness. They are just so relatable and realistic to the teenage experience. His characters jump off the page and feel like they’ve been your life-long friends. You’re The One That I Want was no exception to this rule. 

It was so relatable and authentic, but also quietly heart-breaking at the same time. I love how Green always upends your expectations and rejects the rom-com cliched endings. Throughout, there’s unexpected pairings and changing relationships. This keeps the dynamics feeling fresh, alongside the witty banter and adorably awkward moments. As always, there’s plenty of embarrassment in store for Freddie, but also a lot of love and growth. 

While there is a strong focus on romantic relationships and adorable ones appear, there’s a larger focus on friendship, the power of believing in yourself and being empowered by your own identity. Freddie is another amazing protagonist. He’s frustrated at his inability to find love and willing to go to almost any lengths in order to secure his perfect relationship. This may not be his wisest move though, as he learns how much forcing yourself to be someone else can backfire. 

I cannot adequately review this book without gushing about the musical references. I loved the whole show within the book, with the production of Grease happening the whole way through. That kind of meta nod at a Grease-esque retelling with the characters staging their own production was delicious. Also, I loved all the theatre kid drama and the way tensions flared backstage, but were quelled for the sake of the performances. It was dramatic, hilarious and all too real. 

You’re The One That I Want is a perfect manifestation of the Simon James Green formula for success, with a sparkling sheen of humour and heart that always makes for a winning combination.

Finally, I’d like to delve into Don’t Breathe A Word by Jordyn Taylor. Thank you to Harper 360 for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Present Day:
Eva has never felt like she belonged… not in her own family or with her friends in New York City, and certainly not at a fancy boarding school like Hardwick Preparatory Academy. So when she is invited to join the Fives, an elite secret society, she jumps at the opportunity to finally be a part of something.

But what if the Fives are about more than just having the best parties and receiving special privileges from the school? What if they are also responsible for keeping some of Hardwick’s biggest secrets buried?

There is only one reason why Connie would volunteer to be one of the six students to participate in testing Hardwick’s nuclear fallout shelter: Craig Allenby. While the thought of nuclear war sends her into a panic, she can’t pass up the opportunity to spend four days locked in with the school’s golden boy. However, Connie and the other students quickly discover that there is more to this “test” than they previously thought. As they are forced to follow an escalating series of commands, Connie realizes that one wrong move could have dangerous consequences.

Separated by sixty years , Eva’s and Connie’s stories become inextricably intertwined as Eva unravels the mystery of how six students went into the fallout shelter all those years ago . . . but only five came out.

Publication Date: 24th June

TW: death, claustrophobia, classism, sexism

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

Don’t Breathe a Word is an intriguing psychological mystery spanning two timelines and touching upon some fascinating aspects of Dark Academia. 

I was initially sold on this book based solely on that fantastic premise. The claustrophobic and spine-tingling atmosphere created instantly by the bunker storyline, entwined with my fascination for Dark Academia elements within stories, meant thatI just had to pick it up. Fortunately, Taylor proved she had much more lurking up her sleeves. 

This was an incredibly addictive read. Taylor’s writing just kept me glued to the page, desperate to uncover all of the secrets. Luckily for me, there were plenty of dark and juicy mysteries to be resolved. I liked how the two timelines intersected to create the overall picture. The dark secrets were slowly unveiled and I liked how often the reader was able to put the pieces together early. Also, the little connections that were often unexpected were so interesting to see unfold. Mysteries often fail or succeed based on their twists, turns and reveals. Don’t Breathe a Word not only succeeded, it excelled. 

I liked how psychological this mystery was. This is ultimately a rumination on power and its corruptive abilities. It’s a tale of naivety and ideology easily distorting people’s worldviews. Essentially, it’s a tale of manipulation and nepotism. I liked how Taylor really delved into the corruption at the heart of the secret society, of how its connections allowed for successes that people hadn’t really earnt. It’s like a tangled web, all held together by the shadowy silk of secrets and the dark heart of the truth of what happened in that bunker. This made it a thought-provoking read for me. 

Don’t Breathe a Word is a compelling, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable YA mystery that lives up to its intriguing premise. 

8 thoughts on “Mini Review Monday #42

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